Entourage: The Complete Second Season
The sweeter, more good-natured son of Fox's short-lived Hollywood satire series Action!, Entourage has been somewhat unfairly promoted as a guys' version of Sex and the City. As one HBO franchise ends, another must begin, right? But Adrian Grenier and his loyal crew from Queens aren't obsessed with shoes, shopping, and sex. (OK, at least not those first two.) Careers matter more than relationships, and dating—or just hooking up with some wanna-be starlet on the beach—is mainly a barometer of how your career's going. The hotter the chick, the hotter your prospects must be.
At least this is the view of Kevin Dillon and Jerry Ferrara, who play Grenier's chief flunkies. His more sensible manager (Kevin Connolly) realizes that babes can be a career distraction—fine for a movie opening, and hence the appearance of success, but not someone you want hanging around the moneymaker, not when the Aquaman movie is being discussed with James Cameron. But Grenier is reluctant to wear tights, despite the counsel of his agent (Jeremy Piven in a now iconic role): "Hanks fucked a fish before he did Forrest Gump."
What with Dillon constantly referencing his character's waned early-'90s fame (having apparently once played a Power Ranger in a cell phone ad), Entourage drives home Hollywood's pervasive career anxiety with well-chosen cameos. Ralph Macchio, Pauly Shore, and Bob Saget are all perfectly willing to poke fun at themselves. (And Gary Busey? "I know you. You are a gut maggot." It's anyone's guess.) When you're up, you're up; and when you're down, you're down.
Though Grenier's possible casting as Aquaman seems the unifying story arc of the season, I'd argue it's more about real estate—buying a crib for himself and his homies (whom he calls, in a telling moment, "my poor boys"). For viewers male or female, working in showbiz or not, it's the pressure of being the family provider that makes Entourage so good. You can laugh at the ridiculously remote foibles of Hollywood, while knowing that everybody there also has to pay the bills. BRIAN MILLER
Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel
If ever there was a dead rock star you wanted to shake by the lapels and tell, "Pull yourself together, man! You've got a great career ahead of you!" it's Gram Parsons. All those other dead boomer icons—Janis, Jimi, Jerry, and now Syd Barrett—got their due on FM radio and through endless album-rock repetition until, frankly, we grew damn well sick of them. But as this SIFF '05 documentary tribute makes clear, Parsons (1946–1973) had such a brief pre-Eagles-country-rock career peak that he's now a figure revered more by musical insiders. These include Emmylou Harris, Keith Richards, Elvis Costello, Steve Earle, Dwight Yoakam, Seattle's own Peter Buck, and others whom German director Gandulf Hennig gathers in this well-crafted, adulatory doc. (Made over seven years, it's clearly a labor of love.) Born rich, orphaned early, a Harvard dropout from the South, Parsons perhaps sabotaged his own early success with the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers. And perhaps there was foreknowledge, too, in his plaintive singing voice. "It was like he was crying for help," says bandmate Chris Hillman. He was, per Richards, "the only guy I knew that would make every ship in the ocean weep." More than three decades after his death, and after the rather tangentially related Grand Theft Parsons (about the bizarre theft and partial immolation of his corpse by a drug buddy), you can still hear that melancholy ache. BRIAN MILLER
John Frankenheimer, as underrated as he was brilliant, made a racing picture in 1966 that's yet to be topped 40 years later. James Garner suffered through the director's churlish demands (which Frankenheimer reveals and owns up to in archival footage on one of the documentaries here) to provide the cool heart at the center of this overheated epic about women and cars and the men who like to ride 'em both. The story is damned near as captivating as the racing, but the movie's remembered for its you-are-there realism and not for the love triangle that turns, more or less, into an octagon. One problem with this double-disc set is that the movie itself bleeds over onto the bonus-features disc (what is this, 1998?). Otherwise, buckle up. ROBERT WILONSKY
With the second Pirates of the Caribbean out, you have to admire the cheek—or something—of the big-budget porno flick Pirates riding its coattails (not that anyone there is wearing a coat). More serious fare includes the documentary Shakespeare Behind Bars and the South African Oscar winner Tsotsi. Electric Edwardians presents amazing silent-era footage, while Beyond the Rocks somewhat restores the reputation of Rudolph Valentino. From SIFF '03, the Argentine anthology film Intimate Stories led our Sheila Benson to compare director Carlos Sorin to Ken Loach and Vittorio de Sica. Criterion offers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's A Canterbury Tale, while Warner Bros. continues to dredge its noir vault for titles including the very odd adaptation of Raymond Chandler's Lady in the Lake, in which the camera serves as Philip Marlowe's POV. Notable old TV titles include Sybil (with a schizo Sally Field) and An Early Frost, one of the first AIDS dramas.